QAnon's Favorite 'Anti-Trafficking' Org May Partner With Twitter
For the past several years, whenever conservatives have found themselves in an indefensible or awkward position, they immediately go to the well of claiming it has something to do with their very serious fight against child molestation. They had to support Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton because Hillary Clinton was in cahoots with an underground child sex trafficking ring headed by a performance artist, with a base in the non-existent basement of a pizza parlor.
QAnon people claimed that Donald Trump — as repellant as he is, as many disgusting things he'd said about his own daughter when she was a child, as much time as he spent palling around with Jeffrey Epstein, as much as he was known to walk around locker rooms full of naked Miss Teen USA contestants — was involved in a secret operation to take down all the child sex traffickers. COVID deniers insisted that the pandemic was actually a massive ruse to get people to stay in their homes so the military could rescue "mole children" who were being sex trafficked.
Upon realizing that "the Bible says no!" was no longer an effective argument against the existence of LGBTQ+ people, the Right has pivoted hard to claiming that LGBTQ+ people are all "grooming" children.
Elon Musk has followed this strategy himself — going so far as to insinuate that Yoel Roth, Twitter's former head of Trust and Safety, was pro-child molestation and allowed child sexual exploitation (CSE) material on the site. As a result, Roth has had to leave his home over threats to his life and his family's lives. Ironically, Musk's layoffs included almost the entire team responsible for removing child sexual abuse content, save for one now very overworked person.
Now, as VICE first reported, Twitter's new head of Trust and Safety Ella Irwin is interested in discussing a "partnership opportunity" with one of the most controversial "anti-trafficking" groups out there: Operation Underground Railroad (OUR).
Now, I am of the opinion that anything involving the term "trafficking" needs to be taken with a grain of salt, if only because it is such a very broad term and that broadness tends to be exploited by people with an agenda, including some very well-meaning people who just want other people to care about and pay attention to the thing they care about. They do things like conflate child sex trafficking with adults doing consensual sex work, or with child labor (which is far more prevalent) or post statistics about the number of children who are reported missing every year while leaving out the fact that 99 percent of those children come home alive.
OUR, however, has gone further than most when it comes to the bullshit, frequently vastly overstating their own activities in the name of fighting child sex-trafficking, giving credence to QAnon conspiracy theories and ... possibly engaging in human trafficking themselves.
OUR dramatically overstated its role in the case of a young trafficking survivor, with [Tim] Ballard implying in Congressional testimony that it had helped to rescue her. In fact, as court records made clear, the survivor bravely escaped on her own, and only met OUR representatives years later, as she was preparing to testify in court against her traffickers. It also claimed to have rescued a group of “sex slaves,” obtained U.S. visas for them, and helped them attend and in some cases graduate university; very little of this turned out to be true. It also engaged in bumbling, amateurish “raids” that experts said could put trafficking victims at risk—and in at least one case did so on the say-so of a psychic medium named Janet—and misrepresented things as minor as whether it had a partnership with American Airlines.
Tim Ballard, the head of the organization, said during the "Wayfair is trafficking children in overpriced cabinets" panic, that this was indeed a very common way of trafficking children for sex slavery, that it happens all the time across the internet, and that whether it was true or not, he was glad people were "waking up to it." He has also been linked to Glenn Beck, Lin Wood, and other purveyors of nonsense.
Given Elon Musk's predilection for insinuating that people he dislikes are in favor of child sexual exploitation and his apparent mission to replace all actual journalists with "citizen journalists," by which he means random right-wing trolls who speculate on what they think might be true ... this seems like a partnership that will not end well.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse